As a writer, I have no shortage of ideas.
I know that might seem like an odd thing to say. You might be thinking I must be the luckiest writer in the world to have such an abundance of things to write about. After all, isn’t writers’ block the bane of a writer’s existence?
Is there a writer around that has ever sat down at their computer, or typewriter, or taken their quill and ink in hand and then sat their staring at the screen or a seemingly massive sheet of blank paper, struggling to make their brain come up with some words to put on it?
I can say with absolute certainty that I have had this problem more times than I could ever hope to count.
But it is not because I was short of ideas. That is not what causes writers’ block.
The real cause of writers’ block…
…is that you have forgotten the ideas that you have already had.
You come up with great ideas all the time. By the simple act of living life, you acquire ideas. When you walk down the street, you acquire ideas. When you shampoo your hair in the shower, you acquire ideas. When you are sitting at a red light and the driver behind you honks at you because you have failed to notice it turn green, chances are you were lost in a daydream, thinking about an idea.
You know this is true because it’s happened to you. You’ve been waiting for the elevator and without even trying at all, an amazing idea for an article, or a book, or even a simple phrase has popped into your mind. The idea is so clear and complete you even start writing it in your head. You have the opening planned, you have a pretty good sense of how it would end and then… …the elevator arrives.
Ideas are everywhere, we are never short of them. They come to us without any effort whatsoever, and yet somehow as writers, in spite of this abundance of ideas that we encounter on a daily basis, we all end up inevitably sitting down and staring at our screens, making our brains ache as we desperately try to think of something to write about.
I am writing this article because I forgot what I really wanted to write about
It’s sad, but it’s true. Over the past two days I have had several moments where ideas have hit me that have made me extremely excited. But they came at the wrong moment. I was busy, I had distractions, I was late for a meeting, I was hungry…
I was lazy.
I didn’t take the time to do what everyone who ever has an idea should do.
I didn’t write it down. I didn’t take 30 seconds to send a text message to myself to remind me about my fantastic burst of inspiration. I don’t know why, I took 30 seconds respond to a tweet by someone who didn’t like black bars on his movies.
But I didn’t take the time to ensure that I preserved my own precious creative energy.
Ideas are a commodity
Ideas have value. Ideas are the genesis of EVERYTHING. Why then do we treat them with so little respect, as if they are expendable?
Because they are intangible. They do not occupy any space, and they occupy very little time. We are certain that we will always have more of them, and that is true, but ideas are like children, if we lose one, we will never have that same idea again. We may have one that is just as good, and maybe even similar in some ways, but that one precious original thought that we were so careless with is gone forever.
Losing ideas hurts
It may seem silly to be sad about something that didn’t cost you anything, that came from nothing, and was only ever in your mind, but the loss of an idea actually does cause a degree of distress.
I know for me personally I tend to get very distracted and tense as I try so hard to think up that wonderful idea I let go of. It’s kind of like when you lose your wallet, you don’t feel at ease until you discover it safe and sound in your back pocket, or at home on the dresser.
And losing ideas hurts because these days it is so avoidable! It used to be you’d need to carry a notepad around with you everywhere if you wanted to be sure you’d be able to safeguard your the progeny of your neurons, now there isn’t a person around not carrying a smart phone or a bloody iPad. If you don’t take the time do jot your ideas down in a sticky notes app, you are being something beyond lazy, and you are truly cheating yourself.
I am not speaking from the podium here, I am speaking because I have been the lazy, self cheating fool who didn’t write his ideas down.
Remember these key points:
- No matter what you think at the time, you will not remember the idea later. You may remember it again several weeks later, but is that good enough for you?
- Ideas are infinite, but that does not mean they are replaceable or duplicable.
- Ideas are valuable! The entire world as we know it exits because of ideas! Treat them as such!
- These ideas don’t just apply to writers. They apply to anyone who relies on original ideas for their job or personal life.
- Writers’ block is entirely avoidable. So avoid it!